Victoria Covid update: 450 new cases as infections among pregnant women climb

Victorian health authorities have issued an urgent warning to pregnant women in the state to get vaccinated, after Monash hospital had an influx of pregnant women admitted with Covid-19 in the past week.

On the day the state recorded 450 new locally acquired cases of Covid-19, Ryan Hodges – the program director of women’s and newborn, and the director of obstetric services, at Monash – told reporters staff there were “very worried” by the number of pregnant women who had been admitted in the past week who were very sick with Covid-19 and risked having their babies born prematurely.

There were seven women admitted to Monash with Covid-19. Hodges said Covid-19 infections meant the patient was five times more likely to need to go to Monash. Once there, there was a one-in-three chance they would need oxygen therapy, a one-in-seven chance they would be in intensive care, a one-in-two chance they would need emergency delivery of the baby, a one-in-two chance of caesarean section, and a one- in-four chance the baby would need to be born prematurely.

Hodges said the patient would be twice as likely to have a stillbirth.

“This is what we’re seeing from the Delta variant of the coronavirus,” he said. “We have seven women who are pregnant, who are in the hospital, one of whom is in intensive care at 24 weeks’ gestation with a 600g baby. She’s unwell.

“We have 26 weeks’ [pregnant], we have 28 weeks, we have 30 weeks. These are very high risk of needing extreme premature births due to the degree of their infection.”

The hospital had also had to look after women in the last days of their pregnancy with their support people and children unable to come to hospital due to being at home in isolation with Covid-19.

“We are concerned, this very early on in this next wave,” Hodges said. “And what we are seeing is not what we saw in the last wave. This is not what we see with influenza. Never would I have seven sick women in hospital with influenza, this is different.”

Victoria has allowed women who are at 24 weeks and over in their pregnancy to get priority booking for the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, but women at any stage of their pregnancy are encouraged to book for vaccination.

Hodges urged people to book as soon as possible, stating the overwhelming majority of women Monash was looking after were not vaccinated.

“It prevents severe disease, it prevents you coming to Monash, it prevents you having your baby born early and put into our intensive care unit. It is safe.

“When you look at the side effects of women in pregnancy who have had vaccination, they’re actually less likely to get a fever than in the non-pregnant group. The immune protection response actually crosses the placenta to the baby. It provides protection to the baby.”

He said for women who are breastfeeding the vaccination response crosses in breast milk to protect the baby.

Of the 450 cases reported in Victoria on Saturday, only 75 were linked to existing cases. The majority of the cases continue to be in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, accounting for 70% of those reported.

There are now 143 people in hospital, 34 in intensive care units and 26 on a ventilator. Eighty-nine percent of those in hospital are unvaccinated, with 11% having had one dose of the vaccine.

The Victorian health minister, Martin Foley, said 85% of the 2,793 active cases in Victoria were people aged under 50, and overwhelmingly cases were being seen in the unvaccinated.

There were also cases in the western suburbs, and eight cases reported in regional Victoria, which has now come out of lockdown.

Health officials were confident the majority of those cases had spent time in metro Melbourne, where the cases were likely acquired. Three hotel quarantine workers also tested positive, but also likely acquired the infection in the community rather than through a hotel quarantine breach, health department deputy secretary Kate Matson said.

Foley flagged the state government would be in talks with the construction industry over Covid safety compliance with 116 cases now flowing from the outbreak at the Box Hill construction site.

Meanwhile, in South Australia, the state recorded one new case of Covid-19 in a mine worker who flew from Sydney on Friday. Adelaide airport has been named as an exposure site and people who were there on Friday between 8.30am and 10.30am were being told to monitor for symptoms.

The South Australian premier, Steven Marshall, announced that from Monday the state would allow people aged 60 years and over to book for Pfizer. Previously those over 60 only had access to AstraZeneca.

“It’s on for young and old,” Marshall said. “From Monday, children aged 12 to 15 and people aged 60 and over will be able to book in for Pfizer vaccinations at state-run clinics.

“It’s part of our plan to accelerate our pathway out of the pandemic as we add more than 60,000 new appointments from next week.”

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